Wednesday, May 29, 2013

How To Get Dinner on the Table

A lot of people have asked me how I have the time and energy to put beautiful food on the table every night. First of all, I don't have kids, so the pace of my life allows for a little more stretch. Second, the reality is I don't put beautiful food on the table every night. We eat pizza more often than I care to admit  and the tuna melt plays a supporting role in our meal rotation.

Eating healthy is a priority in my life so we do eat at home at least 5-6 days a week. I find it very difficult to find healthy choices when eating out, but that's a whole other post for another day.

Although we are not strictly vegetarian, the majority of our food is plant-based. I have found that if I start meal planning with the vegetables in mind it helps me avoid the meat-starch-side of veg rut. Just in case I haven't harped on this enough to you people, it is a myth that you need to serve a protein with every meal as vegetables and grains also have plenty of protein, enough to keep you healthy. We consider meat a delicacy in our home and eat very little of it.

So what the heck do we eat? Below is a list of my go-to recipes that I make over and over again and feel great eating over and over again. I rarely spend more than an hour preparing dinner.

Gwen's Go-To Dinners

Spaghetti with Lemon and Olive Oil from Smitten Kitchen. I like to add avocado, tomato, and asparagus to this pasta as well. You can add whatever veggies you like.

Potato, Orange and Arugula Salad by Giada de Laurentiis.

Tacos. A little beans, a little salsa, a little avocado, a little cabbage, a little sauteed onion and peppers = dinner in less than 15 minutes. Get creative!

Pasta with pesto sauce. I figured out that pesto can be made from virtually any green leafy substance and can be whipped up in the time it takes to cook the pasta. Here are some variations: traditionalarugula, sun-dried tomatokitchen sink pesto.

Multi-grain risotto. Wonderful with squash, kale, chard, or asparagus. Use whatever blend of grains you have that have similar cook times.

Soup. Such an underrated meal and so easy to throw together with whatever you have. Ideas: Sausage, potato, and lima bean, hearty miso soup, curried carrot soup, broccoli soup, split pea.

Last but not least, SALAD. Honestly, this option goes last on my list because more often than not, I prefer a hot meal for dinner. But in a pinch, I'll toss together whatever greens I have along with some tomatoes, avocado, hard-boild egg, nuts, beans, even some microwaved sweet potato. I always make my own dressing with a little olive oil, lemon juice or vinegar, and salt & pepper.

That's it for now, remember, it's all about the veggies!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Review: The Strawberry Patch

I often dream about what it would be like to own a little cafe with a chalkboard menu and a tiny, intimate dining room decorated in antique furniture and lace. The offerings would change with the seasons and my guests would linger for hours over espresso and freshly made pastries.

That dream may be distant for me but is a reality for the owners of The Strawberry Patch. Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday in Kainaliu, this adorable little bistro has all the charm of a family-run cafe plus all the quality of a high-end restaurant.

The menu has something for everyone from locally sourced salads to pasta and pizza, sandwiches and even a selection of curries. Specials change with the tides but are guaranteed to please.

We tried the fried green tomatoes, roasted beet salad, macaroni and cheese, and a cheesy mushroom pasta dish that was on special. All were excellent and lovingly prepared with many locally sourced ingredients. There was also a large selection of freshly made desserts, we had the apple cake and loved it. It felt like going to a friend's house for dinner.

If you want to avoid the road noise in the outdoor seating area, call ahead to reserve a table inside at (808)322-9060. There is no alcohol available at The Strawberry Patch, but you can bring your own and they will provide glasses, and don't charge for corkage. Ok for families, but not a lot of space for large groups.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Ka'u Coffee Festival Ho'olaule'a

Iced mocha from the Flyin' Hawaiian

The Ka'u Coffee Festival's big event was held on May 4th in Pahala. Crowds of people from all over the Big Island and beyond gathered to enjoy the best coffees Ka'u has to offer.

There were plenty of coffee samples, ono food, crafts from local vendors, music, dancing, and the "Ka'u Coffee Experience," a sampling of coffees prepared in a variety of different methods by brewing experts.

Clouds for days but no rain
Who knew there were so many different ways to make coffee? The coffee experts carefully weighed the beans before grinding, brought the water up to specific temperatures before brewing, and showed us that the size of the spigot matters when pouring water over coffee grounds. The most unique brewing method was the cold brew; ice slowly melts and drips through a coffee filter to create a special drinking experience 12 hours later. Now that's caffeine commitment.

Cold brewed coffee
We enjoyed a teriyaki beef plate made with local beef by the 4-H club and an iced mocha from the Flyin' Hawaiian coffee truck. Our favorite coffee of the day (although it was extremely hard to choose) came from Rusty's Hawaiian with great, fruity flavors.

4-H'ers say, eat local!

If you missed it this year, mark your calendars for next year's Ka'u Coffee Festival held in spring in Pahala.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Ka'u Coffee Festival Triple C Recipe Contest

What do you get when you mix a lot of butter, a little sugar, and some of the world's best coffee together over scorching heat? Sugar splash burns on your belly from cooking in a swim suit?

No! I mean yes, but more importantly you get the grand prize winning recipe at the Ka'u Coffee Festival's Triple C Recipe Contest. I'm super excited to report to you all that my Coco Mocha Roca won first place candy and the overall best recipe prizes last weekend in Pahala.

You may remember that my Ka'u Coffee Brigadeiros won first place candy last year, but were edged out of the grand prize by Chelsea Lynn Kauionalani Rosario with her biscotti recipe. 

The Triple C Recipe Contest is only one part of the Ka'u Coffee Festival which is going on through May 5, 2013. I went to the ho'olaulea in Pahala on Saturday for unlimited coffee tastings, ono food, and of course great, live music. More on that event later.

If you have never been, or it has been awhile since you visited Ka'u, this is the perfect opportunity to check it out. Not only does this district of the Big Island offer views for days of the greenest ranch land and the bluest seas, but it's hard to beat the down-home, country vibe that oozes around every bend in the road. 

Before attempting to make the recipe below, you will definitely need a candy thermometer. Hope you like it!

Coco Mocha Roca
makes about 30 two inch pieces

1 cup Hawaiian cane sugar
1 cup butter, plus more greasing pan
3 TBL finely ground Ka’u coffee, divided

1 ½ cups roasted & salted Big Island macadamia nuts, chopped and divided
1 cup chocolate chips

1 cup shredded coconut

Butter a 9x11 pan.

In a saucepan over medium high heat melt sugar, butter, and 2 TBL Ka’u coffee grounds and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Turn heat down to medium, stirring constantly for about 12 minutes or until a candy thermometer reads 300 degrees. Do not allow it to go ever 320 degrees.

Mix 1 cup of mac nuts in with sugar mixture.  Carefully spread mixture in pan with a wooden spoon, taking care to spread as evenly as possible. You may need 2 spoons to accomplish this since it is so hot. 

Sprinkle the chocolate chips and the remaining Ka’u coffee over all. Allow chocolate to melt for a minute or so, then spread it out evenly with the wooden spoon. Top with remaining mac nuts and coconut, pressing down a little so it sticks to the chocolate. Allow to cool completely before cutting into 2 inch squares with a sharp knife. Enjoy!

PS: If it is a very humid day, the sugar/butter part of this recipe may not set, so choose your day wisely. 


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